For outdoorsy gals: an FUD nonreview

Warning: This post is a review, or as it turns out, a non-review of FUDs–female urination devices, in outdoor-industry speak. It’s about pee funnels. If you don’t want to read about the trials and tribulations of women trying to pee standing up in the woods or on a climb, stop here.

As I told my friend Sara, the Rock Climber Girl, someone has to do it. Love them or hate them, someone’s gotta talk about pee funnels.

The Freshette and the GoGirl, hiding in the bottom of my pack

The Freshette and the GoGirl, hiding in the bottom of my pack

I picked up an FUD known as the Freshette at REI over the winter. The Freshette was a recommended item on the Chicks With Picks packing list, and I figured it was time for me to learn how to use one of these, anyway. The pants I favor for both skiing and ice climbing, Patagonia Winter Guide Pants, sport removable suspenders, and I like ’em. They help keep my pants up on days when I’ve layered lightly. However, the suspenders are not easy to remove. They fasten with velcro and are finicky. Thus, a pee funnel sounded like a better idea than stripping a jacket or two every time I needed to go.

FUD manufacturers like to tell you to practice in the shower first. This is a red herring. Peeing into an FUD in the shower is easy, because you were probably smart and removed all clothes below the waist out of fear. The only challenge is, well, peeing standing up, which I’ve learned feels totally unnatural (perhaps if you’ve done it enough, this goes away). You have to really talk yourself into it. For me, this goes against instinct far more than hauling myself up a wall of ice, even though we all know ice climbing is stupid.

What the FUD manufacturers should tell you is, practice in the shower all Pataguccied out: Wear your Capilene bikinis, baselayer bottoms and your Winter Guide Pants, with suspenders over your shoulders, and put your harness on, being sure to add some gear to the loops (weighs down the waistbelt, gets in the way). Boots are optional.

After a successful half-naked shower pee or two, I naively thought I was set for real-world funnel peeing. I was wrong. At CWP, I did battle with the clothing listed above and failed. If you don’t tilt your FUD the right way, I learned, the pee will spill out the back. Pants and zipperless, seamless baselayers make achieving a perfect tilt rather challenging. Take it from me, peeing on yourself at the bottom of an icy, shady canyon in January is a huge drag. At least my clothing dried quickly, but gah, it was really unpleasant for a while and wow does hot pee turn cold fast.

It’s enough to make a girl weigh her options: Risk peeing on yourself again, or bare your ass to the wind like you always have?

I chose the latter.

I’d given up on FUDs until we went to France, where I found myself in the middle of an otherwise male rope team on a glacier. I considered whipping out my Freshette, which I was carrying but not using. It was useless weight in my pack, heavy on my conscience, because real women, I knew, used pee funnels on rope teams. But I’d lost confidence in my FUD abilities. It was easier when I didn’t have the FUD option, when I had to squat. I think I might know how toddlers feel when they’re potty training now. This FUD situation was totally stressing me out. It was easier to squat with a harness on and hope I wasn’t over a snow bridge, because boy, that would be an awkward crevasse rescue.

Since my failure on the glacier prompted more funnel discussions with girlfriends, Sara thought of me when she saw the GoGirl display at Outdoor Retailer. (Isn’t that sweet?) She picked one up for me, and it was such a thoughtful gesture that I agreed to write a review (she reviews gear on her site). The GoGirl arrived not long after I came home from Chamonix, and I immediately threw it into my backpack and proceeded to carry it, alongside the defunct Freshette, out climbing at least six times without using it.

I didn’t have the nerve to risk climbing at Lumpy with pee on my capris.

Finally, two days ago, I was cragging up Boulder Canyon and nature called. I sighed. I thought of the review I’d agreed to write, and out of guilt took off my harness and dug the GoGirl out of the bottom of my pack. Unlike the Freshette, the GoGirl is soft and flexible–too flexible, if you ask me. It folded and buckled as I tried to maneuver it into place, and I fully lost confidence in it. Once again, I couldn’t commit.

So I’m sorry, Sara. Rather than writing an FUD review, I’ve written a psychological review of why I haven’t managed to master peeing while standing up–an ode to squatting, if you will. My hope is that other women will read this and feel they’re not alone in their FUD anxiety. Some women, I know, will even risk dehydration to avoid awkward situations, which is dangerous since it can lead to altitude sickness. Personally, I’d rather have people see my big white booty than end up dehydrated, but the point is, I’m not the only woman out there with issues, so lend your friends some words of support. For me, those words are ‘squat now, serenity now!’

(But better yet, if you’ve mastered the art of the FUD, please leave a comment and tell me how to work around all of that winter clothing sans stress, because it does still seem like a good idea.)